Between Innovation and Tradition
A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Between Innovation and Tradition
Interview With Theologian and Liturgist Father Nicola Bux
By Antonio Gaspari
ROME, 24 MARCH 2010 (ZENIT)
Benedict XVI is becoming known as a great reformer of the liturgy, but according to author Father Nicola Bux, the reform under way hardly started with the current Pope.
Father Bux, an expert in Eastern liturgy and a consultor for the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, has looked at the Holy Father's efforts at reform in a book titled "La Riforma de Benedetto XVI. La Liturgia tra Innovazione e Tradizione," with a prologue by Vittorio Messori.
In this volume, the priest characterizes the Pope's reform as a looking forward, recovering the most beautiful elements tradition offers the present Church.
He says the Holy Father's patient reform effort is designed to renew Christian life, restoring in the liturgy a wise balance between innovation and tradition, thus revealing a journeying Church, able to reflect on itself and to value its age-old treasure.
ZENIT spoke with Father Bux about Benedict XVI's reform efforts and what can be expected regarding the Mass in Latin.
ZENIT: How is Benedict XVI reforming and why has he sparked so many reactions?
Father Bux: The reform of the liturgy, a term to be understood, according to the liturgical constitution of the Second Vatican Council, as instauratio, namely, as a re-establishment of the correct place in ecclesial life, did not begin with Benedict XVI but with the very history of the Church, from the Apostles to the age of the martyrs, from Pope Damasus to Gregory the Great, from Pius V and Pius X to Pius XII and Paul VI. The instauratio is continuous, because the risk that the Church will slide from her place, which is to be source of Christian life, always exists; decadence comes when divine worship is subjected to the personal sentimentalism and activism of clerics and laity who, penetrating in it, transform it into human work and spectacular entertainment. A symptom today, for example, is applause in the church, which indistinctly punctuates the baptism of a newborn and the departure of a coffin in a funeral. Does not a liturgy that has become entertainment need reform? This is what Benedict XVI is doing: the emblem of his reforming work will be the re-establishment of the cross in the center of the altar, to make it understood that the liturgy is addressed to the Lord and not to man, even if he is a sacred minister.
Reaction always exists in every third change of the history of the Church, but one must not be shocked.
ZENIT: What are the differences between those called innovators and the traditionalists?
Father Bux: These two terms must first be clarified. If to innovate means to favor the instauratio of which I spoke, it is precisely what is needed, as is as well traditio, if it means to guard the deposit revealed sedimented also in the liturgy. If, instead, to innovate means to transform the liturgy from work of God into human action, oscillating between an archaic taste that wishes to preserve only the aspects that please, and a conformism in vogue at the moment, we are on the wrong road; or, on the contrary, to be preservers of merely human traditions that have superimposed themselves by way of encrustation in the painting, no longer allowing for the perception of the harmony of the whole. In reality, the two opposites end up by coinciding, revealing their contradiction. An example: the innovators hold that Mass was formerly celebrated addressed to the people. Studies demonstrate the contrary: the orientation ad Deum, ad Orientem, is proper to man's worship of God. Think of Judaism. Still today, all Eastern liturgies keep it. How is it possible that the innovators, lovers of the restoration of former elements in the post-conciliar liturgy, have not kept it?
ZENIT: What meaning does tradition have in Christian history and faith?
Father Bux: Tradition is one of the sources of Revelation: the liturgy, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (1124), is its constitutive element. In the book "Jesus of Nazareth," Benedict XVI reminds that revelation has become liturgy. Then there are the traditions of faith, of culture, of piety that have entered and covered the liturgy, so that we now have several forms of rites in the East and in the West. Hence everyone understands why the constitution on the liturgy, in No. 22, paragraph 3 affirms urgently: "Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority."
ZENIT: Do you think it possible to return today to Mass in Latin?
Father Bux: The Roman Missal renewed by Paul VI is in Latin and constitutes the so-called typical edition, because reference must be made to it by editions in current languages prepared by national and territorial episcopal conferences, approved by the Holy See. Hence, the Mass in Latin has continued to be celebrated also with the new Ordo, though rarely. This has ended by contributing to the impossibility of an assembly made up of languages and nations, of participating in a Mass celebrated in the universal sacred language of the Catholic Church of Latin rite. Thus, born in its place are the so-called international Masses, celebrated so that parts of which the Holy Mass is made up are recited or sung in many languages: thus each group understands only its own!
It had been maintained that no one understood Latin. Now, if the Mass in a shrine is celebrated in four languages, each group only understands a quarter of it. Besides other considerations, as the Synod of 2005 hoped on the Eucharist, there must be a return to the Mass in Latin: a Sunday Mass in cathedrals and parishes. This will help in the so-called present multi-cultural society, to recover Catholic participation in so far as being universal Church or in so far as congregating with other peoples and nations that make up the one Church. National Christians, though giving space to national languages, have kept ecclesiastic Greek and Slavic in the most important parts of the liturgy, such as the anaphora and processions with antiphons for the Gospel and the Offertory.
Contributing enormously to establish all this is the old Ordo of the previous Roman Missal, re-established by Benedict XVI with the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," that, simplifying, is called Mass in Latin: in reality it is the Mass of Gregory the Great, in as much as its basic structure dates back to the time of this Pontiff and has remained intact through the additions and simplifications of Pius V and the other Pontiffs up to John XXIII. The Fathers of Vatican II celebrated it daily without perceiving any opposition with the modernization they were carrying out.
ZENIT: Pope Benedict XVI has posed the problem of liturgical abuses. What is this about?
Father Bux:To tell the truth, the first to lament the manipulations in the liturgy was Paul VI, a few years after the publication of the Roman Missal in the general audience of Aug. 22, 1973. Paul VI, on the other hand, was convinced that the liturgical reform carried out after the council, had truly introduced and supported firmly the indications of the liturgical constitution (address to the Sacred College of June 22, 1973). But the arbitrary experimentation continued and, on the contrary, exacerbated nostalgia for the old rite. In the consistory of June 27, 1977, the Pope admonished the "rebels" for the improvisations, banalities, frivolities and profanations, calling them severely to hold themselves to the norm established so as not to compromise the regula fidei, the dogma, the ecclesiastical discipline, lex credendi and orandi; and also the traditionalists, so that they would acknowledge the "accidentalness" of the modifications introduced in the sacred rites.
In 1975 Paul VI's bull "Apostolorum Limina" for the convocation of the Holy Year observed, in regard to the liturgical renewal: "We esteem it extremely opportune that this work be re-examined and receive new evolutions, so that, based on what has been firmly confirmed by the authority of the Church, one will be able to observe everywhere those that are truly valid and legitimate and continue their application with even greater zeal, according to the norms and methods counseled by pastoral prudence and by a true piety."
I omit the denunciations of abuses and shadows in the liturgy by John Paul II on many occasions, in particular in the Letter "Vicesimus Quintus Annus," since the coming into force of the constitution on the liturgy. Benedict XVI, therefore, has intended to re-examine and give new impulse precisely by opening a window with the motu proprio, so that little by little the air will change and put back in its place all that has gone beyond the intention and the letter of Vatican \ II, in continuity with the whole tradition of the Church.
ZENIT: You have many times affirmed that in a correct liturgy it is necessary to respect the rights of God. Can you explain what you are trying to uphold?
Father Bux: The liturgy, a term that in Greek indicates the ritual action of a people that celebrates, for example, its feasts, as happened in Athens or as still happens today with the opening of the Olympics or other civil manifestations, is evidently produced by man. The sacred liturgy exhibits this attribute because it is not made in our image — in this case the worship would be idolatrous, that is, created by our hands — but is made by the Omnipotent Lord. In the Old Testament, with his presence he indicated to Moses how he had to predispose in its most minimal details the worship of the one God, next to his brother Aaron. In the New Testament, Jesus did as much on defending true worship by expelling the merchants from the Temple and giving the Apostles the dispositions for the Paschal Supper. The apostolic tradition has received and re-launched Jesus Christ's mandate. Hence, the liturgy is sacred, as the West says — it is divine, as the East says, because it is instituted by God. St. Benedict defines it Opus Dei, work of God, to which nothing must be preferred. Precisely the mediating function between God and man, proper of the high priesthood of Christ, and exercised in and with the liturgy by the priest minister of the Church, attests that the liturgy comes down from heaven, as the Byzantine liturgy states based on the image of revelation. It is God who establishes and hence indicates how he must be "worshipped in spirit and in truth," that is, in Jesus his Son and in the Holy Spirit. He has the right to be worshipped as he wishes.
A profound reflection is necessary on all this, in as much as its neglect is at the origin of the abuses and profanations, already described admirably in 2004 by the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The recovery of the Ius divinum in the liturgy, contributes much to respect it as something sacred, as the norms prescribed; but also the new ones must be followed again with a spirit of devotion and obedience on the part of the sacred ministers for the edification of all the faithful and to help many who seek God to find him living and true in the divine worship of the Church. The bishops, priests and seminarians must learn again and carry out the sacred rites with this spirit, and contribute to the true reform desired by Vatican II and above all to revive the faith that, as the Holy Father wrote in the Letter to Bishops of March 10, 2009, runs the risk of being extinguished in many parts of the world.
[Translation by ZENIT]
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